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Interview: Profit mit Managerfortbildungen

Als erste führende US-Business-School hat die Fuqua School of Business der Duke University ein Tochterunternehmen gegründet, das Profit mit Managerfortbildungen machen soll. DukeCE will auch maßgeschneiderte Kurse für deutsche Unternehmen anbieten. Interview mit Blair H. Sheppard, President & CEO von DukeCE.
Blair C. Sheppard
Als erste führende US-Business School hat die Fuqua School of Business der Duke University ihren Executive Education-Bereich in ein kommerzielles Tochterunternehmen ausgegliedert. Duke Corporate Education Inc. (DukeCE) wird in Zukunft in aller Welt auf Unternehmen maßgeschneiderte Managerfortbildungsprogramme anbieten, die Präsenzveranstaltungen und Online-Kurse verbinden. Die MBA- und Executive-MBA-Programme werden unverändert von der Fuqua School selbst angeboten

Unter der Führung von Blair C. Sheppard strebt DukeCE ein Umsatzvolumen von 200 Millionen US-Dollar in den nächsten fünf Jahren an und schließt auch einen Börsengang nicht aus. Als besonders aussichtsreich sieht man den deutschen Markt, wo bereits Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa und Siemens zu den Kunden zählen

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Christoph Mohr befragte Blair H. Sheppard, President & CEO von DukeCE nach seinen Zielen:

You are an academic by training and now a for-profit orientated startup entrepreneur. Have you sold your soul?

As of now there are eighty-four souls involved in this enterprise that entails the most impressive collection of educators from universities and corporations I have had the opportunity to work with. Our souls are thriving and nourished. The essence of a university's soul is the pursuit of useable knowledge and the application of that knowledge to learning, at the core of both is true discovery and innovation and experimentation in learning. DukeCE provides the perfect venue for the pursuit of innovations in education and with a segment of knowledge and learning that has received too little attention

Every major business school in the US or Europe has a separate executive/corporate education unit to make money. Why did Fuqua go a step further and create an independent for-profit spin-off?

First, recognize that there are many schools poised to take such a step. Enterprise LSE essentially serves the same function for the London School of Economics that we do for Duke. They do so presently in a not for profit mode, but are easily adapted to a for profit mode. INSEAD has a simulations business poised to be for profit. The recent merger of Executive Education functions by Harvard/Stanford, Wharton/INSEAD and LBS/Columbia are all probably best managed under some separate structure, probably for profit

Independent incorporation is essential for four reasons. It provides capital for the investments necessary to build platforms, methods and content essential to providing education at the scale we intend, It permits equity-based incentives to employees for building and sharing intellectual property and taking a focus on customers (Essentially we are designed to permit those who build the business to share in its wealth.), It allows us to create a hybrid environment in which business experienced executives can work as peers with those form an academic career. This is very stimulating for both groups. It is the appropriate governance model for our core business. I do not think that governments intended not for profit status for entities in the business of making individual firms more competitive. That is our core business.

Business Schools love to teach business plans. Let's play the business plan game:

Equally we all know that the power of planning is in developing a shared understanding of the strategic possibilities, and creating a direction for the organization. As with any other firm, our strategic intentions aren't cast in stone

What exactly is Duke CE's product?

Primarily the design, development and delivery of customized educational experiences for corporations around the world. These experiences come in five essential forms:

1. Educational experiences targeted at management transitions. In this sense we provide education designed to develop the capabilities and perspective necessary to adapt to changes in level of responsibility including the full range of such changes from the first shift from individual contributor to manager, to tailored learning for someone preparing to become a CEO

2. Education to support the creation of functional excellence within a firm, such as the move on the part of most pharmaceutical firms to improve the quality of their marketing activities and talent in light of changes in the healthcare industry

3. Educational experiences to support the creation and implementation of strategy. The key difference to our approach is that our goal is to develop effective strategists who generate their own strategy not to develop their strategies for them

4. Education targeted at developing solutions to fundamental business problems within our client firms. Secondarily, providing advice and support to other universities and businesses to help them think through and deliver more effective learning strategies.

What is your business model?

Business models are designed to answer three questions. What are the assets or capabilities you are building? How are they applied in a differentiated fashion to the markets you have identified? Where is value created? Consider each in turn. Our assets are deep educational methodology and design expertise, captured in both people and technology; an ability to understand and build content solutions for our clients' problems through world leading experts operating in a highly client centered organization; an ability to create innovative educational experiences both face to face and electronically; and a global network of relationships with e-learning firms, faculty and other educational providers

Our differentiation comes from our ability to take those assets and provide the optimal mix of educational experiences based upon our clients' business problem, learning need, audience, context and price point. There are virtually no other providers that can design and deliver an integrated experience for the entire organization at all price points. E-learning firms typically provide a generic solution not tailored to company needs and cannot work with the senior leadership of firms on strategically focused education. Executive education sections of business schools are designed to provide education only for the top layers of the firm, as their cost structure does not permit broader solutions. We are uniquely positioned to provide scalable custom learning solutions

Value comes from our ability to produce custom education at scale and change the margin structure of our business by leveraging our senior talent with technology and a network of educators throughout the world. We are also building a set of strategic assets having clear value: customer relationships, a unique combination of academic and business practitioners, proprietary technology and content, and alliances.

What is your market? And how do you evaluate the growth potential of this market?

Globally, executive and management development is estimated to have a market between $20 and $50Bn per annum. Currently there is more demand than supply, driven by ever- changing commercial environments, and increasing need to educate executives to take on new challenges. Customers include high growth firms who had to promote large numbers of managers without the requisite experience typically considered necessary to be prepared for such roles, such as telecommunications providers and IT firms; large enterprises facing the retirement of the majority of their managers and executives, such as many automotive and other manufacturing organizations; firms facing significant shifts in their market and resultant business models such as pharmaceutical firms or accounting firms and firms whose business is built upon human capital. Growth in this industry will be between 10-25% per year. There exists an insufficient supply of capable vendors in this space as noone has really had sufficient experience with education at the presently required scale on a global basis using the technology now available. There is a discontinuity between need and capability someone should fill. We intend to do so

Who are your competitors and how do you evaluate your competitive advantage?

Our competitors and potential competitors come from an impressive array of schools and firms. They sort into six broad categories

1. Other business schools - our competitive advantage is the presence of capital to develop technology, the mix of academic and practitioner, client-focus, the range of options available to us and a pure focus on corporate education rather than a mixed focus on executive education and degree programs. Some recent strategic moves by business schools including the creation of new alliances indicates they are working to attack these issues

2. Independent providers from one person coaching shops to large, management development providers. Our competitive advantage comes from the ability to have conversations with both the Human Resources or Corporate Learning functions and senior line executives, affiliation with a major university and associated depth of expertise, our years of experience in place and space and the quality of our staff

3. Technology based service firms such as IBM or Cisco. Their clear strength is a deep understanding of web-based technology. Our comparative advantage is our unique understanding and focus on education

4. Consulting firms and the consulting arms of accounting firms, typically building an education practice from their strategic change practices or HR outsourcing practices. Our comparative advantage comes from our focus on education, talent mix and expertise in education related technology

5. Publishers, such as Pearson or Thompson who use acquisition and production of business content as the basis of competition. Our advantage arises from our strategic focus, our heritage as an education organization, our focus on discourse based learning models and our custom design capability

6. E-learning providers, many of whom are in financial risk but some of whom have built impressive models such as Phoenix University, UNEXT, Caliber or Open University. Our basis of advantage arises from the depth and level of expertise we have and thus the ability to custom design to the strategic needs of a firm

What is the growth perspective of your startup? What are your revenue and benefit objectives ?

Our fiscal year follows the school calendar, thus, we are finishing our 3rd quarter. We will have revenue of over $13M this year. Next year we intend to grow to $32M and breakeven having paid a fairly large fixed royalty payment to Duke. We intend to grow to revenue over $200M within five years

What are your capital sources?

Right now we have a bankline collateralized through 20% of our equity. We decided to seek financing after we had proven the concept this year. We are now having quiet conversations with potential investors

Who are your business partners (such as Means Business)?

Our list of partners continues to grow, both for product creation and program delivery. There are some general observations about those we have worked with:

- must be prepared to change the traditional exec ed ways of working
- must be able to bring ideas that offer value to clients
- In some cases help our own distribution capability

Right now our major partners are The Learning Partnership, Erroyo, Means Business, Forum, IESE, Performance First and Pensare. Expect to see other announcements soon. And don't forget, Fuqua is still a big part of the picture

If DukeCE grows as fast as you promise, you will need fresh capital in the future. Could you imagine an IPO?

IPO is one route for the organization. Conceivable, but given market circumstances, not right now! Other options are to remain closely held by Duke, raise private money or sell all or portions of the firm to a strategic investor. We are looking at all options, but not for a while. We need to succeed as a major growth business that rights the rules first.

Every business school in the world has problems today to recruit talented people.Doesn't this shortage seriously limit your growth perspectives? How do you want to attract a sufficiently high number of these people?

We have been extremely successful in our recruiting efforts. People with both academic and business backgrounds enjoy the hybrid model. People like the ability to receive equity. We have the perfect environment for the academic who wishes to work with companies on critical strategic issues, the practitioner who wishes time and incentives to capture what they know in formal terms and the technologist who wishes to change the face of education. People can live where they wish and work for us. We have employees in Continental Europe, the United Kingdom and distributed throughout the United States. Soon we hope to have similar presence in Asia and Latin America. We are a very dynamic organization focused on leading the change in delivering effective education on a global basis for people at work

Your product is a mixture of offline and online. Can you imagine purely internet-based products in the future?

Wouldn't rule this out, but our experience is that adults learn best when engaging one another. Our skill is in blending delivery of content with collaborative opportunities to discuss, review, deepen understanding and apply to an organizational context. Two things will change:

the internet generation will mature, and we may see new pedagogies, technology will continue to move at pace, offering improved tools and processes for interaction and involvement. Right now, our view is that humans have social needs, often best fulfilled by contact and dialogue. I was recently at Dell, the firm most focused upon the distribution of education and work electronically, and it was impossible to find a parking space in their very large parking lot. The point is that optimal work and optimal education will entail the combination of place and space now and in the future. Said differently organizations are social entities, so too is good education. As technology improves so that interaction of real quality can be achieved over the web we will probably shift more and more to the web. In the interim we are generally a mixed-media firm

How important is Germany for DukeCE?

Very. We have a significant number of valued clients in Germany and across Europe. The Fuqua School made a conscious decision to enter Europe building a presence in Frankfurt and delivering one section of its new Cross Continent MBA in Germany. Fuqua also has a relationship with Steigenberger for the creation of its teaching facility at the Frankfurt Airport

We have made a deliberate effort to build broader presence in Europe through opening and office in Brussels, hiring talent in the UK and building relationships with schools on the Continent. We are also working extremely hard to work with faculty and practitioners who have global, not just US experience. Germany is at the center of our effort to build Europe as a main focus of our business and a lynchpin in our efforts to be a truly global firm.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 25.04.2001